But First, Remember to Deliver the Paper

It all started with a phone call six weeks ago from one of the two major newspapers in the Boston area. Their telemarketing department was offering a free two-week subscription to show the advantage of home delivery. Now, you have to marvel at the modern sales/marketing efforts of large and electronically sophisticated corporations. On the one hand, they are offering to “give away” their product for two weeks. On the other hand, it represents a retail value of only $5.00. But those free newspapers can be counted on their roles as a “subscriber,” which keeps distribution numbers high and allows a subsequent “boost” to advertising rates ? or at least added closing power with prospective advertisers based on total numbers of papers distributed. If the list being used by telemarketing was purchased through one of the more sophisticated compilers, they could also offer other information to their advertising clients:

  • Readership’s Average Income (you sell Jaguars, 15% of our readers can afford Jaguars)
  • Readership’s Average Age (Are you opening a Gen X or Gen Y business? Forty percent of our readers are Gen X or Gen Y)
  • Readerships Marital Status (Thirty percent of our readers look for new singles bars, twenty percent “second time around” singles bars.)
  • Buying Habits (Twenty percent of our readers are planning a European vacation)

With the advent of the Web came the ability to compile, sort, sub-sort, and update lead lists faster, better, and to greater detail than ever before. And as you refine and use the list, online tools make it possible for you to re-sort, further define, and then resell the same list yourself or offer it to your own client base as a “value add” (if you advertise, we will put together a mailing list for your next sale consisting of the six adjacent zip codes to your store). On the Friday of the second week, the sales department called me back to ask if I would like to now subscribe to the paper on a regular basis. Marketing statistics show that many of the people who won’t BUY something new will decide to “keep” something they have become accustomed to having. The best way to sell a new concept is to first give it away, and then remind the recipient that they will soon lose the service unless they agree to join up. So it is evident that the new sales telemarketing group and the general sales office are linked, and the software updates one from the other once a new promotional account in entered into the system. Customer service was also well equipped and well armed to deal with calls quickly and efficiently. Although partially automated, you only had to deal with one “online directory” before being actually connected to a real person with good “people” training and a pleasant attitude. There was just one problem: they never actually delivered a newspaper. That is the reason I know the customer service people were so nice and well trained, I spoke to them four different times looking for my newspaper. So along with the accolades of their politeness and training in people management, I must also report that they are evidently powerless to do anything that involves having processed wood pulp impregnated with ink land on the aggregate in front of my steps! (I would even have been happy if they threw it in the bushes.) So, you’ve got to ask yourself, how could a well run and respected business spend millions on sales and marketing tools, purchase sophisticated measurement tools to monitor processes, invest capital in sales promotions and special offers ? and not deliver the newspaper? What is the one and only function of a newspaper that means anything? Putting the news, and their advertising, in the hands of readers! So as you shake your head in disbelief of this organization’s failure to meet the bare minimum standard of success, I have to ask you, “Are you delivering the paper?” We operate under many titles and job descriptions:

  • Human Resources
  • Benefits Specialist
  • Compensation Analyst
  • Generalist
  • Diversity Specialist
  • College Recruiter
  • Staffing Specialist
  • Personnel Representative
  • Contract Recruiter
  • Consultant
  • Agency Recruiter
  • Web Sourcing Specialist
  • Recruiting Communications Specialist
  • Recruiting Webmaster
  • et cetera…

But we all have one mandate, one mission, one reason for being a line item on this years corporate budget, one reason the stock holders should fund our existence: To recruit and to retain. That is the service we deliver. Everything thing else is a hobby. Yes, benefits are important, but only in so far as they contribute to the basic mission. I have a high regard for quality compensation analysis, up to the point it becomes a science unto itself and not dedicated to supporting the prime mission. How often do you feel that we end up dividing ourselves along the lines of our respective “titles” rather than unifying in our common mission of “delivering the newspaper?” All the automation, prescreening tools, processing tools, and other add-ons and upgrades mean very little if we don’t first measure the importance of these tools and our participation in their utilization as it pertains to the one true mission. One reason I feel we focus so little on “delivering the newspapers” is the process we call a “top to bottom review.” You see, the bottom delivers newspapers, so if they are considered last in process planning and budget allocations, are we truly surprised that they fail to “deliver the newspaper?” When is the last time you did a “bottom to top” review of your spending? Before you design and fix the top of any process, first make sure the bottom is working. For example:

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  • How much money have you spent on interview training for hiring managers and their identified interview teams?
  • How much money have you spent on behavioral interview, sales, and negotiations training for your frontline recruiters?
  • How much direct input and control does your frontline team (the “worker bees”) have into the process? (In other words, how many “management drones” have override on a process they only observe?)
  • How much effort is made to insure the money spent on process enhancement and improvement at least equals the money spent on tools to generate reports?

This is not a complete list, but you get the point. Elevate the bottom from the status of, “Oh yeah, one more thing,” to that of, “First and foremost…” The process in most companies is usually to work from the top down in planning budgets. The quality of office furniture and the newness of PCs is usually a clear indication of what part of the budget process the area you are sitting in represents. (Anybody want to bet that the marketing manager’s office was more posh than the circulation manager’s at the newspaper in question?) No, I did not write this article to vent over my not getting two weeks of free newspapers. But it did remind me that sometimes, in the glory of creation, upgrading, automating, and “kingdom building,” we have to step back and ask:

  • “Does this have anything to do with delivering the newspaper?” or…
  • “Am I exercising my job responsibilities with an eye to first insuring what I do enhances delivering the newspaper?”

Try sending a memo out to your respective teams today and ask them what it is they would want most, not to have merely as a new feature, but to assist them in “delivering the newspaper?” Then compare it to the priorities you, or the management team above you, have been advocating. The irony is that the marketing strategy did work; I decided that having a morning paper with my coffee was a luxury worth having. So I called the other paper in town and have had that delivered now for a week. Maybe they didn’t have a flashy sales and marketing program, but they know how to deliver a newspaper. Have a great day recruiting!

Ken Gaffey (kengaffey@comcast.net) is currently an employee of CPS Personal Services (www.cps.ca.gov) and has been involved in the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration project since its inception. Prior to this National Security project Ken was an independent human resources and staffing consultant with an extensive career of diversified human resources and staffing experience in the high-tech, financial services, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. His past clients include Hewlett Packard, First Data Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Fleet Bank, Rational Software, Ericsson, Astra Pharmaceutical, G&D Engineering, and other national and international industry leaders. In addition to contributing articles and book reviews to publications like ERE, Monster.com, AIRS, HR Today, and the International Recruiters Newsletter, Ken is a speaker at national and international conferences, training seminars, and other staffing industry events. Ken is a Boston native and has lived in the greater Boston area most of his life. Ken attended the University of South Carolina and was an officer in the United States Marine Corps.


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